Picture: Supplied
Picture: Supplied

Online grocery delivery service becomes Covid-19 lifeline for Cape townships

By Masabata Mkwananzi Time of article published Jun 2, 2020

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Launched in 2018, Yebo Fresh has appeared as a good solution to the Covid-19 pandemic, helping township communities to order food online and have it delivered on their doorstep.

Yebo Fresh also helps those in informal settlements, ensuring that townships are able to access vital food safely.

Yebo Fresh is a community-driven, technology-enabled operation online shopping service that was originally launched two years ago in the Hout Bay township of Imizamo Yethu. It has expanded to include other townships of Hangberg, Langa, Gugulethu, Khayelitsha, Mfuleni and Delft.

The company’s desire was to improve the quality of life to township residents by bringing e-commerce to their doors through the most used powerful tool they have which is their cell phones.

“Our goal was to provide access to healthier, quality food options in an affordable way for township residents. We wanted an innovative technology solution that would support communities where delivery is not a nice-to-have but a necessity in the absence of sufficient food retailing options,” said Jessica Boonstra, founder of Yebo Fresh.

The delivery part of the business is also assisting charities struggling with delivering food parcels into informal settlements where the level of crimes is of real concern.

Many charities of since then recognised the strength of the startup logical network and have now partnered with Yebo Fresh to enable food parcels to be delivered to townships, fulfilling a vital service during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have been able to expand our grocery ordering model to deliver food parcels directly to people who are isolated within their homes and with very limited access under the lockdown to any other form of retail,” said Boonstra.

Since its inception the company has experienced significant growth, an indication that suggests townships are open to e-commerce services. The company has even expanded further into a new warehouse space 10x larger than the previous one, and its operation continues to create job opportunities and more partnerships.

“We are currently packing around 1000 food parcels, amounting to 110 000 meals, daily. Soon we’ll be able to double that volume,” added Boonstra. 

Customers can place their orders via the website, WhatsApp, bot or WhatsApp call services. For those who have smartphones and don’t know how to place orders online, the company also uses paper forms, which are digitized by local agents. In order to keep prices down, optimise delivery planning, and reduce both stock levels and waste in the warehouse. Yebo Fresh customers are kept up to date about their orders and deliveries via SMS.

“We then coordinate deliveries to easily-accessible and centralised locations such as community centres, schools, churches, daycare centres, or even stokvel groups, which also allows us to optimise our delivery route...but we also deliver directly to a recipient’s home.” Said Boonstra.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the company had already set fundraising strategies in place in order to create further brand awareness and extend the startup’s reach through an expansion of both its logistics and core technology. Originally founded by UK entrepreneur and investor, Professor Stefan Allesch-Taylor, angel investors, Bas Hochstenbach, and Frederik Gerner the founders of early-stage investor E4Africa, were joined by WooThemes co-founder Mark Forrester and former Digital Planet CEO Neil Watson, to secure further funds for YeboFresh.

Boonstra said that it was the startup’s mission to continue to push the boundaries on all fronts and expand its operations even further, on the ground operationally as well as in continuing to develop its technology.

“Highly unusual times call for measures above and beyond. We need a consolidated effort to ensure that one of the most basic human rights access to food continues to be rolled out to all,” she concluded.


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